MMIWG Inquiry a Clarion Call.
The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls final report is aspirational and inspirational. It invites Canada to be better, do better and to help create a society in which the dignity of Indigenous people, and specifically that of Indigenous women, is fully respected.
The 231 calls to justice in the two-volume document, Reclaiming Power and Place, are based on testimony from 1,484 witnesses. The inquiry commissioners bore witness to the stories from family members of the more than 1,400 women and girls murdered and missing in Canada. They listened to hundreds of accounts by Indigenous, Inuit and Metis people.
But the story of the inquiry's findings is best seen not in the numbers in the report, but in the spirit of the inquiry's operation.
Commissioner Qajaq Robinson and the inquiry's staff researcher, Karine Duhamel, shared the podium at a Persons Day breakfast in Winnipeg, a fundraiser sponsored by WISE in support of equality initiatives in Manitoba. Being tasked with documenting the root causes of all forms of violence against Indigenous women and girls was a collaborative, profoundly important task, they said. They consulted Elders, experts and knowledge keepers. They supported each other as they grappled with ways to implore Canada to put as much effort into undoing colonialism as it did in creating it.
Acting as excavators, the commissioners unearthed truths that disturbed settler narratives. One of those truths--namely that the violence perpetuated against women, girls and two-spirit people is just part of a "genocide empowered by colonial structures"--was not easy for many non-Indigenous people to hear. Nonetheless, the report makes it clear that conquering Indigenous peoples and imposing patriarchal values on them is what led to the ultimate disappearance, including murder, of many Indigenous women, girls, two-spirit and trans people.
"Every truth combined to create a tapestry," said Robinson of the process of the inquiry. One seemingly small truth woven into the tapestry, Robinson noted, is that in many Indigenous traditional communities, "the binary of male and female didn't exist." This example of how colonization, homophobia and gender violence are entwined, Robinson says, proves how "binaries divide us." Viewing colonization as a lethal binary offers a powerful lens on the past and is also part of a blueprint with which to create a radically different future.
"An absolute paradigm shift" is required to dismantle colonialism within Canadian society and "to restore the dignity of Indigenous women, girls, two spirit and gender diverse people," Duhamel said.
The work involves four areas, including healing intergenerational Indigenous trauma, correcting the social margin-alization of Indigenous peoples and reversing the lack of institutional will to change all of Canada's institutions. The fourth requires acknowledging the wisdom of women, two-spirit and trans Indigenous peoples.
The calls to justice apply not only to governments and government agencies, but to all policy developers, community leaders, businesspeople, the media, religious leaders and educators. In fact, everyone is asked to take part.
"Everyone has a responsibility to act," Robinson says, to create "a new vision for Canada."
by PENNI MITCHELL